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Casa Borrega opens in Central City 

  A new Mexican restaurant focusing on Mexican street food, showcasing live music and doubling as a gallery for recycled building materials opened last week along the reviving commercial corridor of Central City.

  Casa Borrega (1719 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 504-292-3705) initially will operate under limited summer hours, from 5 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday, and serve a relatively short summer menu that gives a taste of the full program its owners plan to roll out with expanded hours in the fall.

  Hugo Montero, a local artist and first-time restaurateur, says the menu springs from casual foods and snacks of Mexico City, the hometown he left when he moved to the U.S. 25 years ago.

  "It's a Mexican restaurant, but not in the way people usually think about one," he says. "I adore Tex-Mex, I respect it, but it's not Mexican."

  The summer menu hews more closely to the taqueria fare that has blossomed at little eateries across the city since Hurricane Katrina, with a roster of corn tortilla tacos, flautas and tortas, which are Mexican sandwiches made on crusty bolillo loaves. A focal point of the menu are antojitos (Spanish for "little cravings") like gorditas, tostadas and tlacoyos, which are oblong masa cakes filled with beans and topped with cactus and cheese. There's a full bar specializing in Mexican cocktails. By September, Casa Borrega will be open more days and add breakfast and lunch, Montero says.

  Montero developed Casa Borrega with his wife Linda Stone, who was a founder of the Green Project, a local nonprofit that recycles building materials and supplies. They renovated a 19th century townhouse for Casa Borrega as a showcase for recycling, with the interior and patio resembling a collage of salvaged doors and windows, vintage light fixtures, repurposed woodwork and other details.

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